Saturday, September 25, 2010

Response to Steve Malone

This is a response to Steve, who commented on the previous post. We suggest you read Steve's comment at the bottom of the previous post, then read this.


This is not something new, nor is it something that leaves out Guam [and other places] totally. Your gripe is not with me, but with other Blue Water Navy groups that have been trying to crowd the current bill for two years, and managed to sink the first one in 2008 by doing so. Two years ago, I wrote a proposed bill for people like you and gave it to other BWN groups, and to both the House and Senate Veterans Committees, and to the VVA. No one has done anything about it.

Your gripe is with them.

I advocate now, and have advocated since the introduction of the first bill, that it be limited to what the first bill originally sought to do, RESTORE benefits the VA had taken away. We have never advocated for anything different here, but we have ALSO advocated for the passage of that separate bill that would cover you, and others who served anywhere else in the world and were exposed to herbicides.

Essentially for many reasons, including appropriations, cost, and the need to create a whole new section in Title 38 to properly authorize benefits for the outside groups, it must be written into a new bill.

We do not now, nor have we ever said otherwise, that those outside groups should not be covered. What we say is grounded in common sense, however.

Adding those outside groups will definitely sink the current bill and no one will get benefits.

So are you saying you want us to step back and wait?

Where, in the past two years, has there been any effort from those outside groups to write their own bill outside of the one I wrote? Why did no one advocating for the outside groups take it upon themselves to write a proposed bill? Instead, after killing HR 6562 by jumping on it when it was not intended to be that expansive and therefore making it too bloated to move out of committee, everyone waited for the next bill.

Well, if you did not learn the first time you will surely learn now. HR 2254 will be dead shortly of the same cause of death as HR 6562 in 2008, unless Congress steps in and alters the bill.

Do not point fingers at me. I had my hands full getting this bill introduced to begin with, and then fighting to keep it within reasonable cost limits so it had a chance to pass.

You folks were exposed. But you were never authorized benefits for exposure. We were, and this bill was intended to restore those benefits. It takes a different bill to add new benefits and the process is long, and difficult.

You can do a number of things.

1. You can continue to whine and point fingers without studying the situation fully enough to understand the legislative and appropriations process, and spin your wheels so nothing gets done. Let someone else do it for you.


2. You can get yourself and others in gear and prepare for the 112th Congress NOW by getting a bill for all the outside groups. It will take at least two years to pass it. The DVA will fight it all the way. You must gather your own statistics, and compute your own costs because the DVA will tell Congress it will cost 50 times what it actually will. You can organize a group like VASVW to advocate for you and give you a single voice in Congress, and push for your own bill. If you write to me I will send you a copy of the Proposed bill that will do what you need done; use it as is, or modified any way that suits. And you will understand that VASVW, as soon as it gets its benefits RESTORED will advocate for your Proposed bill.

We are at a disadvantage. We are not like other groups in that we have no income, no assets and no money. We operate strictly out of pocket. We have learned how to be efficient in our advocacy. A few people can cover a lot of ground in Congress, especially if they have a head start.

Letters simply do not work. The only thing that works effectively is face-to-face contact with the legislator and later with his or her staff. That must happen in the home district and in their Washington, DC offices.  That takes time and effort. So you need people in the DC area that can get there and be effective advocates for you. You will quickly learn how to be the most effective. You need a broad membership, so your group must be a coalition of smaller groups, each advocating for his own group: Guam, Johnston Island, Okinawa, The Philippines, Korea, Panama, etc. You all need to unite behind one leader or a small group of three leaders to work together and devise a plan.

It will take quite a while to start such a group and there are pitfalls to it I do not have time to go through now.

But if you would like, please contact me via the "email me" link and I will gladly help you as much as I can. I would also recommend that you join VASVW [its free, and certainly open to all], and study how we work. As mentioned before, it is all common sense stuff but there is no handbook.


”It is a stain on this nation's honor that the Department of Veterans Affairs has become a deadlier and more difficult adversary to the American veteran than any they have ever faced on a battlefield."-- VNVets

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